Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Trump’s Iraq Visit Opens Door Wide to US Presence Debate

Trump’s Iraq Visit Opens Door Wide to US Presence Debate

Friday, 28 December, 2018 - 10:45
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greet military personnel at the dining facility during an unannounced visit to al-Asad Air Base, Iraq December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa

US President Donald Trump's surprise trip to Iraq has infuriated Shiite Iraqi politicians and armed factions who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Trump met Wednesday with US servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq’s al-Anbar province.

While Trump didn't meet with any officials, he spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi by phone. A planned meeting between the two leaders was canceled over a "difference in points of view" over arrangements, according to the prime minister's office.

Some political parties hailed the statement issued by Abdul Mahdi’s office, while Shiite forces considered it “mysterious.”

Sairoon bloc spokesman Qahtan al-Jabouri said that the Iraqi government should explain its nature of ties with the US, because many aspects of its policies are “mysterious and unclear.”

Jabouri told Asharq Al-awsat that Trump’s surprise visit to Iraq has nothing to do with visits made by other officials, who come to the country after abiding by several protocol procedures.

Any visit made by a US official should receive the prior approval of the Iraqi authorities, he said.

MP Naim al-Aboudi from the Fatah alliance also “strongly condemned” Trump’s visit, saying it violated Iraq’s sovereignty after breaking with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state.

He also hailed Abdul Mahdi for refusing to meet with Trump at al-Asad Airbase, insisting for the meeting to take place in Baghdad.

“America acted as a cowboy,” Aboudi said, adding that his bloc would call for a vote in Parliament to expel US forces from the country.

But top Sunni politician Atheel al-Nujaifi from the Decision Alliance described Trump’s visit as the biggest challenge yet to Iranian influence in Iraq.

The visit stresses that Iraqi authorities should recognize the presence of the US and that Washington is “ready to confront Iranians in Iraq,” Nujaifi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He also warned that any anti-US action by Iraqi politicians would weaken the government.

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